Pompeo’s Iran remark could backfire
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that it is possible God raised Donald Trump to be US president in order to protect Israel from Iran. His comment created a major backlash in Iran and possibly throughout the region.
From the Iranian opposition, which aims to change the regime, through to monarchists, secularists and the supporters of reform, all the people inside and outside Iran united against the US official’s provocative remark.
Iranians and Jews have a history of friendship and close ties over many centuries. However, these ties disintegrated after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power after the shah was toppled during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Even after that, there is evidence that Israel secretly helped Iran during its war with Iraq in the early 1980s, despite the two countries not having official diplomatic relations.
Besides their historical ties, Iran is still the biggest home to Jews in the Middle East after Israel. There are about 20,000 living there despite hundreds of thousands of them having emigrated to Israel since the revolution.
Likewise, in Israel there is a huge Iranian community, which still has ties with its motherland. Their connections with family and friends keep the two nations connected thanks to their language, Persian food and culture — no matter the animosity between the states’ governments. Some Israeli politicians are also of Iranian ancestry.
The majority of Iranians, who generally have sympathy for Jews and even saved some of their lives during the Holocaust in Europe, find Pompeo’s remark to be an insult, regardless of the Tehran regime’s behavior toward the state of Israel
In an interview in Jerusalem, the Christian Broadcasting Network asked Pompeo: “Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” Esther is the heroine of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which was celebrated last week. “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Pompeo replied.
The majority of Iranians, who generally have sympathy for Jews and even saved some of their lives during the Holocaust in Europe, find Pompeo’s remark to be an insult, regardless of the Tehran regime’s behavior toward the state of Israel.
Iran, of course, does not automatically equal the Islamic Republic. If Pompeo meant that it is the regime that is the enemy of Israel, he needed to clarify his point.
While the people of the two nations have different thoughts of one another, I should mention that the tomb of Queen Esther, the wife of Persian King Ahasuerus (commonly identified as Xerxes the Great), has been preserved in the Iranian city of Hamadan since her death in 465 B.C. I had the chance to visit this shrine some 30 years ago.
Queen Esther, or Hadassah in Hebrew, who was mentioned by Pompeo as the one who saved the Jews from Iranian execution plots, was actually said to have been born in Iran and died there. Iranians are angry for this misinterpretation of their history and a little confused as to whether or not the Trump administration is supporting Iranians in general or viewing them all as being on the same page as the religious rulers and being collaborators with the ayatollahs.
The oppressive acts of the rulers and their supporters are exercised against all Iranian people, regardless of their religion, sect or ethnicity.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading into an election and perhaps needs a boost like this from Pompeo to attract voters. Ironically, however, many of these voters are of Iranian origin and this type of publicity from American officials may be more offensive than it first appears.
• Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of “Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth” (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard